We were all vaguely aware that Craig stayed up late April Fool’s night to submit an application for Postwire to compete at TechCrunch’s Disrupt NY 2012. In fact, he whispered the narration of the requisite product demo in the wee hours from home, careful not to wake his wife and young children.
Meanwhile, startup life marched on. In the next few weeks, feedback from early beta users contributed to a decision to make a major shift (dare I say “pivot”?) in the Postwire user experience. Turns out the ease with which users could beautifully present and share content was, well, too “automagical”, and consequently, confusing. We realized we needed to fundamentally change the experience of sharing content in Postwire.
So the dev team had just begun coding to the new vision when Craig got the email from Conference Program Chair Susan Hobbs on April 26th: “Congratulations! You are a Battlefield finalist!” One of 30 finalists out of a 1000 applicants!
We had 3.5 weeks to finish building out the new UX/UI and create messaging to publicly launch Postwire on stage May 22 at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC. Gulp. “Are you in?” All eight of us agreed we were.
Already well versed in lean product development and agile project management, Craig became more disciplined than ever in prioritizing design decisions. What do we absolutely need for a viable product? Does this feature add complexity to the user experience? Will not having it prevent use? Craig’s leadership and the talents of each of the developers gave birth to Postwire.
Meanwhile, as Craig led the back room through design iterations, Cliff led the charge in the front on messaging. Do users build a Postwire “page” or “web page”? “Personal page” or “private page”? Or, is it a “resource page, “guidebook”, “portfolio” or “touchstone”?! Tick, tock, tick, tock…with time running out, we circled back to where we began—“private web page” it is!
Deadlines and disciplined prioritization during the push to TechCrunch brought clarity to fuzziness. We knew Postwire doesn’t yet have all the desired features and “private web page” is far from perfect. Our messaging especially needs lots more work. But could we tell a compelling-enough story at TechCrunch? We decided yes and the very act of making that decision was empowering. Cliff & Craig ultimately committed to the words we settled upon and nailed the 6-minute pitch on the TechCrunch stage.
During the 3.5 week TechCrunch prep period, our team re-formed, stormed and began to norm. It wasn’t always pretty. Not surprisingly, we were all stressed-out as we heads-down sprinted to the finish line. One of the developers called out the widening gulf between back and front room activities. We all knew it to be true and flagging it was just the shock to the system we needed. Brewing team communication issues were immediately brought out in the open.
What I realize now as I reflect upon our TechCrunch experience is that we gained so much more than good press (TechCrunch.com, Forbes.com, BostInno.com, MassHighTech.com, nibletz.com …) and validation of Postwire as a disruptive innovation. Being a Battlefield Finalist, also gave us the gifts of:
- A hard—and unanimously motivating—deadline to rally around;
- Confidence to make good-enough decisions;
- Discipline to continuously test our assumptions;
- Words to tell our story;
- Respect for the unique contributions of each team member; and
- The foundation for a new team culture.
For all that and more, the VisibleGains team thanks you, TechCrunch.
P.S. Check out the fruit of our labors by signing up for a FREE Postwire account. We’d love your feedback here!